top of page

RJ was too aggressive for bball

RJ Duncan was on his way to church in a car with his mother, Chekesha, on Sunday when they received a call from a reporter. Chekesha couldn’t refrain when RJ was asked when he first stepped onto a wrestling mat as a child, simultaneously explaining he is now a 6-foot-4 grappler and not a basketball player.

“RJ played basketball, and we have a video of him that is hilarious,” said Chekesha of her son, whose initials stand for Rasheen Jerel. “RJ was a 5-year-old, and he was too aggressive on the basketball court. That’s when we switched him to wrestling.”

Now a senior at Old Mill, Duncan’s aggression has paid off. Ranked No. 4 overall as a 285-pounder in the Legacy Wrestling Maryland High School Rankings, Duncan is a defending Class 4A-3A East Region and Class 4A-3A state tournament champion and an Anne Arundel County tournament runner-up. Duncan became the program’s 29th state champion, but only the second at heavyweight since Roy Carter in 1984, according to coach Jim Grimm.

Duncan is also the Patriots’ first Class 4A-3A state champion since 2011 when 140-pound champion Salaman Riddel defeated LaPlata’s Daniel Brannon, 4-2, to complete a 33-1 season.

Duncan is 19-0 (16 pins) after decking six of eight opponents to go with a major decision and a forfeit at this weekend’s Warrior Duals at LaPlata, where the Patriots (20-1) were runners-up to county rival South River following a 43-27 loss. Among Duncan’s victories at LaPlata was a fall in 2:56 over South River junior Busayo Balugon, winner of a county title at 220 pounds last season.

Duncan starred as a two-way lineman on the Patriots’ 10-2, Class 4A state tournament qualifying football team, recording five sacks and three forced fumbles. Duncan finished last season with a record of 20-2, his last loss coming via 1-0 decision to then-Chesapeake sophomore Delmar White in the county championship bout. But a few days later, White suffered a season-ending injury in advance of the following week’s regionals, after which Duncan commenced his run for the regional and state crowns.

A 6-foot-2 junior and the third-ranked 285-pounder ahead of Duncan, White has transferred to Archbishop Spalding. There could be a rematch between Duncan and White during a dual meet at Spalding on January 23. At the Class 4A-3A East Regionals, Duncan used two pins to reach the finals, where he earned an overtime 7-3 victory over senior and eventual fifth-place state finisher Randy Green of Westminster. At states, Duncan reached the finals on three pins before building an 11-4 lead in an eventual 13-8 championship victory over Linganore junior Joel Hopkins (34-5 record).

Duncan pinned the eventual third-place state finisher, Kaden Boone (40-4) of Laurel, in the quarterfinals and the eventual fourth-place finisher, Aboubaker Sherif (37-4) of Seneca Valley, in the semifinals.

Duncan began wrestling at the age of 5, once finishing as a junior league state runner-up to Luke Randazzo, now a junior at Loyola High who is ranked No. 1 at 285 pounds.

After missing his freshman season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Duncan compiled a record of 34-4 as a sophomore that included a major decision victory over White before fracturing a hip in advance of the regional duals.

The 17-year-old Duncan is also a member of the Patriots’ Athletic Leadership Council who scored a 3.5 grade point average on his last report card. “I enjoy talking to RJ. He’s a special person,” Grimm said. “RJ’s one of the nicest individuals in the school. I love RJ to death. Everybody loves RJ.”

Duncan engaged with Legacy Wrestling in this Q&A.

Legacy Wrestling (LW): How does it feel to not only be a defending state champion but the first and since 140-pounder Salaman Riddel in 2011 and the first to win at heavyweight since Roy Carter in 1984?

RJ: I always joke around with coach Grim about this all the time, telling him, “I broke a curse for you.” For so many years, so many of our wrestlers would make it to the state semifinals or the state finals and would lose. So, it felt great.

LW: Do you feel any extra pressure coming into this season?

RJ: A little bit. I feel that winning states was the start to something bigger and I feel like the job still is not done. I trained hard all summer, wrestling for Beat The Streets and doing other competitions to prepare for this season. It's a new season and I’m feeling pretty good and ready to show out for my family and the world again.

LW: When did you start wrestling and have you won any junior league titles?

RJ: I started wrestling when I was 5 and my last year before high school, I came in second place at junior league states to Luke Randazzo.

LW: How disappointed were you after suffering a season-ending injury as a sophomore?

RJ: That took a big mental toll. I was 34-4 and that fractured hip. That was the year when we were a one or two match swing from beating South River. I had already beaten Delmar, 12-1, that season in what was a great match and an amazing moment.

My coach had talked to me before I wrestled Delmar, telling me to leave it all on the mat. Delmar’s a great wrestler, but I had great goals in mind before losing to him at counties. I had to put that behind me and not have that sitting in my mind or else I wouldn’t have won states.

LW: How are you feeling about the fact that there could be a rematch between you and Delmar next month?

RJ: Delmar’s a great wrestler and I can’t take any of that away from him. We do wrestle Spalding this year, and I know that eventually I’ll have to see him again. I’ll need to prepare for that match, but I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’m concentrating on taking this season one match at a time.

LW: As a lineman on the football team what were your accomplishments and those of the team?

RJ: I had five sacks and three forced fumbles to earn First-Team All-County as an offensive guard, offensive tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end. We went 10-2 and lost in the quarterfinals.

LW: What is your role as a member of the Athletic Leadership Council?

RJ: The ALC are people to represent their respective teams as ambassadors of Old Mill. Our teachers set up events and we go to different schools.

I like to think of myself as a person who is an underdog leader, not one of those guys who yell, but when I do speak, I like to believe that my words are heard.

LW: Are you a good student, and if so, what are your academic and collegiate goals?

RJ: This last quarter I had a 3.5 grade point average, and my dream is to wrestle in college. I have to keep my options open. My number one goal is to be a doctor in physical therapy.

I’ve been taking nutrition courses, and I did take a sports medicine course last year. I have a few teachers who have been helping me out throughout and walking me through the process.

LW: Finally, you scheduled this interview at a time when you’re driving to church with your mother – does that speak to your foundational belief system and your values as a young man and a human being?

RJ: Well, I am a Christian and I make sure that I give it all to God, so I do pray before every match because if it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be able to walk out on a mat.

415 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page